NBA approves Grizzlies move to Memphis

After months on the NBA's endangered species list, the Vancouver Grizzlies are officially extinct.

On Tuesday, the league's board of governors unanimously approved the team's move from Vancouver to Memphis.

It is the NBA's first franchise relocation since the Kings moved from Kansas City to Sacramento in 1985.

"We are gratified by the community's enthusiasm and remarkable level of support for the Grizzlies," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "The city of Memphis, Shelby County, the NBA pursuit team, the business community and the local investors have come together with Michael Heisley and the Grizzlies organization to assure that a successful NBA franchise in Memphis will be a reality."

"A number of citizens as well as elected officials have worked very hard to make this dream of an NBA franchise for Memphis a reality," Memphis mayor Willie Herenton added.

The league also approved controlling owner Micheal Heisley's sale of a minority interest in the team to a group of Memphis-based investors led by J.R. (Pitt) Hyde III and his wife, Barbara.

Hyde is founder of AutoZone, an auto parts company.

"This is an exciting day for the people of Memphis," Hyde said. "It's time now to turn our focus to building a competitive basketball team that will be a positive force in the city."

The relocation vote was all but a formality.

The Grizzlies had already moved the team's front office and operations to Memphis last month.

Heisley announced his intentions of moving the Grizz to another city back in February, when he met with NBA commissioner David Stern and outlined the cost of running the franchise in Vancouver.

Emerging from an hour-and-a-half long meeting with Heisley that day, Stern admitted that the situation was dismal and the league would look into relocation options.

It's already clear that the Grizzlies will field a vastly different team that won no more than 23 games in a season

Over the last week, Grizzlies changed the total look of their team, dealing top scorer Shareef Abdur-Rahim and guard Mike Bibby, and drafting college player of the year Shane Battier in Wednesday's NBA Draft.

Abdur-Rahim was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks in return for Lorenzen Wright, Brevin Knight and Pao Gasol, the third overall pick in the draft, while Bibby was traded to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Jason Williams and Nick Anderson.

The Grizzlies will play in the decade-old, 19,000-seat Pyramid while a new arena is constructed over the next two to three years.

By giving the move its final approval, the league ends the Grizzlies short six-year existence.

The Grizzlies were added to the NBA as an expansion team April 27, 1994 and began play in 1995, winning their first game at Portland 92-80.

The Grizzlies would record just 15 victories in that inaugural season, and continued to struggle after that, winning just 14 the next season, then going 19-63 in their third.

Vancouver won just eight of 50 games in the lockout season of 1998-99.

They improved to 22-60 in 1999-2000 and 23-59 last season.